om namo bhagavate sri maha-nrsimhaya
jvala maline mama vighnan paca paca
mama bhayan bhindi bhindi
mama satrun vidravaya vidravaya mama
sarva ristan prabhanjaya prabhanjaya
chata chata, hana hana, chindi chindi
mama sarva-bhistan puraya puraya mam
raksa raksa hum phat svaha
“O Nrsimhadeva, whose form is terrible, by sharp and long teeth, very fearful to see, with strong large nails, garlanded by flames – destroy, destroy my obstacles, and kick out, kick out my fear. Scatter, scatter my enemies. Destroy, destroy my karma. Flash, flash! Kill, kill! Cut, cut! Ever fulfill all my desires to serve You. Safeguard, safeguard me and all around me!” -Sri Nrsimha-kavaca stotram
The fearsome half-man, half-lion form of Lord Nrisimhadeva inspires terror in the hearts of non-devotees and especially those who oppose the Lord and His devotees. And rightfully so, for Lord Nrisimhadeva is the most ferocious form of the Lord, a manifestation of the utmost anger of the Lord in response to the mistreatment of His dear devotee Prahlada Maharaja. What to speak of non-devotees, even servants of the Lord like Lord Brahma and the other demigods were afraid to approach Lord Nrisimhadeva.
This form of the Lord is so fearsome that when the devotees of ISKCON Mayapur wanted to install a Deity of Lord Nrisimhadeva, they could find no sthapati (Deity-scupltor) willing to carve the Deity for them. As soon as the sthapatis heard that the Deity to be carved was one of Ugra Nrisimha, they would refuse to make the Deity.
The devotees of the Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir had decided to install a Deity of Lord Nrisimhadeva after being attacked by a group of 35 dacoits in March of 1984. Lord Nrisimhadeva is the protector of His devotees, so what better way could there be of protecting the Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir than by inviting Him to reside there?
It took many months until a sthapati was found who was willing to carve Ugra Nrisimhadeva. Even then, he did not agree at first. The sthapati’s guru forbade him from taking on the commission, and warned him, “Don’t do it. Your family will be destroyed.” His guru told him that such Deities had not been carved for thousands of years, and that there was a place where such a Deity had been installed long ago that had faced many difficulties and become a ghost town after the standard of worship declined. He said that the specific form of the Lord that ISKCON Mayapur wanted carved, that of Ugra Sthanu Nrisimha, was not even worshiped in the heavenly planets by the demigods. However, shortly thereafter, the sthapati received word from his guru that for ISKCON Mayapur, he could carve the Deity.
Now Lord Nrisimhadeva resides in the Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir, protecting and reciprocating with His devotees. Although the entire universe trembles in fear due to His formidable anger, in Sridhama Mayapur, His devotees experience the sweetness of His loving protection and mercy. Because Deities take on the mood of the presiding Deity of the dhama in which they are situated and because the most merciful incarnation, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, presides over Sridhama Mayapur, in Mayapur Lord Nrisimhadeva takes on a very merciful mood. Many devotees, from Mayapur and all over the world, have experienced very tangibly Lord Nrisimhadeva’s reciprocation to their prayers.
Nrisimha Caturdasi, the day on which Lord Nrisimhadeva appeared to save Prahlada Maharaja from the wrath of his father, is celebrated in Mayapur by thousands. And all over the world, devotees tune into Mayapur TV to participate. From His altar in Mayapur, Lord Nrisimhadeva protects not only ISKCON’s headquarters at the Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir, but also all ISKCON devotees and temples as they endeavor to spread the mission of Lord Caitanya.
The festival is spread over three days. Two days prior to Nrisimha Caturdasi devotees travel to the banks of the Ganges in procession. There, they worship Ganga Devi and collect her water in clay pots to be used to bathe Lord Nrisimhadeva in His grand abhiseka on Nrisimha Caturdasi. This water is deposited in a huge water drum at the temple. Some devotees make multiple trips to collect water, and due to the enthusiasm of the devotees the water drum inevitably begins to overflow. That afternoon, a Deity of Laksmi Nrisimhadeva is taken on procession around the Mayapur campus in a palanquin. Devotees decorate the pathway with beautiful rangoli designs in preparation for the Lord’s passing and prepare offerings for the Lord to enjoy along His way.
The day before Nrisimha Caturdasi, the Maha Sudarshana Homa is performed. This fire sacrifice is performed in the courtyard in front of Lord Nrisimhadeva and lasts for over three hours. It is performed for the pleasure of Lord Nrisimhadeva and, specifically, for the protection of ISKCON. Sudarshana manifests from Lord Nrisimhadeva and thus shares His same nature: fiery and protective of the devotees of the Lord. Sudarshana is invoked and worshiped in this yajna with the offering of 10,000 ahutis (oblations) and, finally, with the offering of tarpanato Sudarshana. The tarpana offered is water infused with and empowered by the maha-mantra. Several months before the festival, devotees are invited to chant extra rounds of japa to be offered in the Maha Sudarshana Homa, and the names chanted by the devotees are then infused in the water. In 2017, 21000 rounds of japa were offered. This year, the organizers of the yajna are hoping to double that number – already, 6000 rounds have been collected. (Those who want to offer rounds who live outside of Mayapur can do so via email by writing to email@example.com or via Whatsapp by writing to +917584854394.)
Narahari Nama Kirtan Utsava also begins the day before Nrisimha Caturdasi, and kirtan is performed all day for the pleasure of Lord Nrisimhadeva and the assembled devotees. After the Deities’ altars close at 1 PM, Lord Nrisimhadeva is given an oil abhiseka by His pujaris. The pujaris bathe His divine form with 16 different types of essential oils, such as sandalwood, kusha, rose, jata,mansi, camphor, aguru and others. They use almost 50 liters of oil to bathe the Lord. That evening, an ecstatic adivas ceremony is performed to invoke auspiciousness for the following day and to prepare the hearts and minds of the assembled devotees for the festival.
The highlight of Nrisimha Caturdasi day is the magnificent abhiseka of Lord Nrisimhadeva that takes place at 4 PM. Despite the sweltering summer heat, devotees crowd into the temple room hours before the abhiseka begins, hoping to find a seat where they can take darshan of Lord Nrisimhadeva during His opulent bathing ceremony. Sweating profusely but caring for nothing but the imminent darshan of their Lord, devotees chant loudly and wait for the Lord to be revealed. Then abhiseka begins and the crowd goes wild, jostling to get a glimpse of Lord Nrisimhadeva’s beautiful dark form as He is bathed in what seems to be a never-ending number of auspicious substances. The fragrance of aromatic oils, flowers, ghee, honey, fruit juices, and many other items fills the air. The kirtan seems to reach a permanent crescendo. The abhiseka lasts for hours, and the mercy of Lord Nrisimhadeva is palpable to many of those gathered before Him.
After abhiseka, Lord Nrisimhadeva is dressed in an armor-like outfit of shining metal and He is offered arati while kirtan continues. The devotees chant and dance until late in the evening, filled with love for their merciful protector.
In his Navadvipa-bhava-taranga, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes:
“In my heart reside duplicity, insincerity, the desire for fame, and the six enemies: lust, anger, envy, fear, illusion and intoxication. Therefore I will pray at the feet of Lord Nrsimha to purify my heart and give me the desire to serve Krishna.
“Weeping I will beg Lord Nrsimha that I may worship Radha-Madhava in Navadvip, free from obstacles. Although this form of the Lord is terrible for the evil, He is exceedingly auspicious for the devotees headed by Prahlada. When will Lord Nrsimha become pleased to mercifully speak to me, a worthless fool, and remove my fears?
‘Dear child, stay here happily in Gaura Dham. Worship Radha-Madhava, and develop attraction for the holy name. By the mercy of My devotees, all obstacles are transcended.’ After speaking like this, when will that Lord joyfully place His feet upon my head? At that moment, by Lord Nrsimha’s mercy, I will exhibit symptoms of ecstatic love for Radha and Krishna, and will roll on the ground by the door of Lord Nrsimha’s temple.”
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies